Deaths behind bars: Taking a closer look at inmate safety and se - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Deaths behind bars: Taking a closer look at inmate safety and security

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) -

The death of a man in Burkburnett Police custody led to the disciplinary action of two officers and improvements in procedures.
Michael Whaley, Burkburnett's City Manager, said actions are being taken to raise officer’s performance standards and training will be conducted department wide.
Wichita County Sheriff David Duke said mental health issues need to be addressed at all jails and prisons, because its a major contributor to the number of inmate deaths.
Officials with the Texas Commission on Jail standards report from March 2009 to July 2016, about 709 people have died behind bars, and 174 of those deaths are said to be caused by suicide.
Sheriff David Dukes said identifying any mental health issue an inmate has is a must.
Once booked in jail inmates are subjected to a medical screening to do so.
     “It's a screening process that's very direct and very adequate to make sure we understand this individual and what he may or may not want to do to himself or to someone else,” said Sheriff Duke.
The process is performed by medical professionals, and Sheriff Duke said if an inmate is determined to be hazardous to themselves or others they are put on suicide watch. 
The Texas Commission on Jail Standard's regulations require prisoners on suicide watch to be checked every 15 minutes, those who pose a higher threat are watched constantly and all others are checked every 30 minutes.
When placed on suicide watch, inmates in Wichita County Jail receive Velcro clothing to eliminate the chance of them injuring themselves.
      “Some inmates have tried to kill themselves in jail before by taking something to hang themselves with either sheeting or blankets, and if someone has made comments or they have a history of this, they're not going to be issued any of this so there's no way they can hurt themselves,” said Sheriff Duke.
Although this issue is hard to address Sheriff Duke said these procedures are necessary.
    “It's our job to take care of them. People make mistakes. Some of them repeatedly and some of them just occasionally, but when they get arrested we are not the judge and jury. We have to give them their rights, and we have to abide by those laws,” said Sheriff Duke.

Wichita county employs 114 detention officers whose only job is to monitor inmates around the clock.
The ratio of detention officers to inmates is one to 48, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards regulation.
Sheriff Duke said from the moment inmates are booked they are being watched nonstop, and there are cameras in every cell.
He adds holding facilities, like the one in Burkburnett, are more likely to have incidents occur since they lack detention staff whose sole purpose is to watch inmates.

He said with the absence of jailers situations can easily happen.
Sheriff Duke said smaller police departments are encouraged to transfer inmates as soon as possible.
Electra police Chief Michael Dozier said his police force is currently working on improving their policies at this time.
This new policy will minimize the time inmates spend in holding cells.

Copyright 2016 KAUZ News All Rights
 

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